True Stone

Whether sculptures can be true is probably impossible to determine. Benjamin Hirte has made four monoliths: an attractive and funny invitation to contemplate the word.

Benjamin Hirte, Venus, 2023. Red sandstone, 22 x 53,5 x 22,5 cm. Photo: Malle Madsen.

By now – and perhaps this has been the case for a long while – pretty much anything that makes a barefaced claim to being true must necessarily be met with scepticism, or at least some questioning. Benjamin Hirte’s exhibition at Christian Andersen is called True Sculpture, and although the word “true” does hold several different and ambiguous meanings, it rings with rather monumental assertiveness. I think it’s a great title. Inside the gallery are four inviting monoliths – four exaggeratedly perfect cubes of handworked sandstone on white plinths cut with crisp precision right down to the last millimetre. Absolutely; sculptures. 

Dusty red like Bologna or middle-class homes, patchily organic like flowery ornaments, modular like building blocks, scaled and accurate like architectural models. All with these soft matte surfaces that almost makes you tremble with an urge to pet or take a bite of them. Every edge and curve, every corner and hole, is a satisfaction to look at. Every box on the good old sculpture checklist is ticked; what more could we possibly want?

But then the sides tilt a little; a centre of gravity looks wobbly; traces of blue paint dot the pristine surfaces; some black plastic slightly fucks up the appearance of timelessness with its contemporary, gorpcore-y tinge of hardware store. Closer inspection reveals that, here and there, the plinths don’t align with their sculptures with neurotic accuracy after all. Hirte’s sculptures just evade complete perfection, and there is something fun in this evasion. There they are, so hopelessly sculptural, audaciously categorised as nothing less than ‘true sculpture’ (and then labeled with archaic titles like Venus, Fountain, and Plague). And precisely because they clearly possess the heft of stone and are imbued with gorgeously sculptural sombreness, we are allowed to giggle along with them at the very idea: what on earth is true sculpture?

One thing seems evident: true does not necessarily equal good. When something is super delicious to look at, it can feel as if the gaze comes to a halt; our eyes can quickly fill up on the appetising display. Perhaps undivided beauty is always a kind of Teflon for the mind – although, of course, also: beautiful! It seems that here, beauty is cultivated with keen attention to the consequences of splendid surfaces and impenetrable attractiveness. That in the effort to reach perfection, an eye for the slightly silly (but very human) aspects of this particular effort also exists. Furthermore, two wall-mounted images hang in a shaded alcove – two blue supporting roles offsetting the red main cast – presumably quite intentionally secondary as if to emphasise the sculptural significance. After all, the exhibition is not called True Art or True Print.

Whether certain sculptures are truer than others is obviously unnecessary (and impossible) to judge, and surely, this is not the artist’s intention here. On the contrary, it is just plain lovely to look at two hands’ rather impressive work with an unwieldy material, to enjoy how stone can also look like silk or a delicacy, and to just do some stoner pondering on the scope and limitations of the word “true” when connected to art.  

Benjamin Hirte, True Sculpture, 2023. Installation view. Photo: Malle Madsen.